23 SEPTEMBER 1882, Page 16


:WriEss Sir Walter Scott published his Life and Works of Swift, he observed that the Dean of St. Patrick's was the most popular. *author in the English language. We question whether this yes- 'diet was a true one in 1814, but it is certainly not true now. 'Galliver's Travels, revised for family reading, can never be a 'dead book ; and the Tale of a Tub will be read by students, if not by the bublic, for the sake of its masterly satire. These works are incomparable in their way, and Gulliver's Travels 'especially has the rare advantage of being both amusing as a story-book and unrivalled as a satire. Arbuthnot, who ranks next to Swift, if, indeed, he does not equal him as a satirist, prophesied that it would have as great a run as the Pilgrim's Progress, and Mr. Stephen observes that it is one of the very few books some knowledge of which may be fairly assumed in any one who reads anything." Every one, no doubt, has heard of the Lilliputians and the Brobdingnags, neither are the detestable Yahoos wholly unfamiliar. The adventures and imaginary characters of Gulliver's Travels are known to readers who never looked into the volume, and the names used by Swift have passed into our common speech. This is high fame. The book has been in existence more than a century and 'a half, and its vitality is not exhausted. We venture, however, 'to doubt, judging from the paucity of new editions, whether Gttlliver's Travels is eagerly sought after either by children ,or grownup people, and we have no doubt whatever that., apart from that work, Swift's position in literature is now- *st-days recognised only by men of letters. He is one of the standard authors whose books are not read. Like his 'contemporary Defoe, he lives on the reputation of a single work ; but Ttobinson 01'1180C has, probably, a wider reputation than the once famous Travels. Swift was never, like Defoe, a hack writer, who cared more for pay than principle. He wrote for party purposes, or to serve a temporary object, but he gave the 'fruits of his labour to the printers who were bold enough to produce his libellous publications. He was honest in purpose, but dishonest in his method of pursuing it. To gain his 'end, he scrupled at nothing, and told lies with a vigour that has seldom been surpassed. He is not delicate in his treatment of opponents, but strikes with a sledge-hammer. Like Johnson, he has no regard for his adversary's feelings ; but unlike John- son, he is totally devoid of scruples. That such a writer, a master of the direct and forcible style, most effective in con- troversy, should have been valued by the statesmen of the day, is not surprising. When he forsook the Whig camp, there was no opponent to pit against him, for neither Addison, with his 'delicate humour, nor Steele, with his keenness and versatility, 'could grapple with an enemy like this. Swift's power over men

• (and over women) was amazing, but much of his influence with 'statesmen so strangely unlike in character and intellect as Harley and St. John, is owing to the fact that he could do what he pleased with his pen. Pamphlets in those days took the *place of newspapers, and if we except "Junius," Swift is the most effective pamphleteer that England has produced. He

Engliah Ms of Letter, ; smut. By Leslie Stephen. London: Macmillan .and Co. succeeded because he was savagely in earnest, and because his genius as a combatant was of the highest Order. 11 argu- ment was against him, he used satire ; if satire failed, he tried invective ;. his armoury was full of weapons, and there was not one of them he could not wield. Swift knew his worth, and took care that others should know it. He was not the man, as Mr. Stephen observes, to bear his honours meekly, and he adds: —" Swift forced himself upon Ministers by self-assertion, and he held them in awe of him, as the lionstarner keeps down the latent ferocity of the wild beast. He never takes his eyes off his subjects, nor lowers his imperious demeanour."

'It must be allowed that he used his influence well. Swift had none of the foibles which are often attributed to men of letters. He loved power, and tried to rule every one with whom he came in contact; but he never seems to have been prompted by literary ambition. In this respect, he was the opposite of his friend Pope, to whom the fame of authorship was as the breath of life. On the other band, Swift dispensed his favours like a king. "I think I am bound," he wrote, "in honour and conscience, to use all my little credit in helping forward men of worth in the world;" and his good deeds in this way, done without regard to party, rescued many a man from poverty, and helped him on the road to fortune. "This is the seventh," he *rites on one °oda- sion, " I have now provided for since I came, and can do nothing for myself." The Tale of a Tub, as we all know, was the obstacle that stood in the way of Swift's preferment. He never, indeed, acknowledged the publication; but every one knew it to be his, and so, to prevent scandal, instead of being made an English Bishop, he was exiled to a country which he loved as little as Herrick loved "dull Devonshire." The imperious will that governed statesmen in London was exercised with equal force, and with even greater eccentricity, in Dublin :— "He required absolute submission," writes Mr. Stephen. "En- trance into the inner circle of his affections could only be achieved by something like abasement, but all within it became as a part of himself, to be both cherished and protected without stint. His affec- tation of brutality was part of a system. On first meeting Lady Burlington, at her husband's house, he ordered her to sing. She declined. He replied, Sing, or I will make you. Why, Madame, I suppose you take me for one of your English hedge-parsons; sing, when I tell you.' She burst into tears, and retired. The next time he met her, he began, Pray, Madame, are you as proud and ill- natured as when I saw you last P' She good-humouredly gave in,

and Swift became her warm friend He behaved in the same way to his servants. Delany tells us that he was one of the best masters in the world;' paid his servants the highest rate of wages known, and took great pains to encourage and help them to save. Baton engaging them, he always tested their humility. One of their duties, he told them, would be to take turns in cleaning the scullion's shoes; and if they objected, he sent them about their business. He is said to have tested a curate's docility in the same way, by offering him sour wine. His dominion was Most easily extended over women ; and a long list might be easily made out of the feminine favourities who, at • all periods of his life, were in more or less intimate relations with this self-appointed Sultan. From the wives of Peers and the daughters of Lord•Lieutenants, down to Dublin tradeswomen with a taste for rhyming, and even scullery-maids with no tastes at all, a whole hierarchy of female slaves bowed to his rule, and were admitted into higher and lower degrees of favour."

The tragic story of Stella and Vanessa is, of course, retold in this monograph. Mr. Forster, in his _We of Swift, which un- fortunately we possess only as a fragment, considers that Esther Johnson's fate was by no means an unhappy one. If she chose, he says, to play an uncommon part in the world, it was not a sorrowful destiny. Mr. Stephen appears to hold the same opinion. "Stella," he writes, "enjoyed his friendship through her life as the cost of a partial isolation from ordinary domestic happiness. She might, and probably did, regard his friendship as a full equivalent for the sacrifice If Stella chose, and, chose freely, it is hard to say that she was mistaken." But had she any choice in the matter ? Swift's power over her from the first was absolute, and he main- tained it by all the arts of which he was so consummate a master. In the days of her youth and beauty, could she doubt, despite the difference of age, that his purpose was marriage And as the years passed by, it would seem to have been inevitable that the hope deferred made her heart sick. But if we could excuse Swift's conduct to Stella on the ground that he once taught her and loved her as a child, and that the relationship of master and pupil did not cease with childhood— a miserable excuse, truly—it is impossible to condone his con- duct to Hester Vanhornrigh. He was upwards of forty when he made the acquaintance ; Hester was seventeen. Towards her, too, he affected the position of a master. The girl, fs. rare beauty, if all reports are true, listened to him, and loved lum,—.

"Bs lessons frond the weakest part, Aimed at the head, but reached the heart."

Swift enjoyed his triumph, and did not choose to see he was acting a despicable part, and leading the affectionate girl to misery. He indulged in a secret correspondence, and invented, as Mr. Stephen observes, certain catchwords, which recall the " little language" in which he wrote to Stella. Esther John- son's temperament was calmer, or her feelings were more under control ; Vanessa's love for Swift excited a passion which death only could subdue. Neither was she ashamed to acknowledge it. "Put my passion," she writes, "under the utmost restraint, send me as distant from you as the earth will allow, yet you cannot banish those charming ideas, which will stick by me whilst I have the use of memory. Nor is the love I bear you only seated in my soul, for there is not a single atom of my frame that is not blended with it." It was too late, when words such as these were written, for Swift to undo the past ; and if over woman died for love, it was Hester Vanhomrigh.

Swift's eccentric character is seen on • its worst side in his relations to women. In his friendship with men, he was sin- cere and constant, His attachment to Harley was per-

sonal, as well as political. " I have been asked," he writes, "to join with those people now in power, but I will not do it, I told Lord Oxford I would go with him when he was out, and now he begs it of me, and I cannot refuse him. I meddle not with his faults as a Minister of State, but you know his personal kindness to me was excessive; he distinguished and chose me above all other men, while he was great." His sorrows and anxiety when Oxford was stabbed were no selfish feelings, and when his .A_dmiuistration was at an end, Swift ex- pressed his affection for him, as well as for Bolingbroke and the Duke of Ormond, and asks how it is possible he can be easy, "while their enemies are endeavouring to take off their heads." In his friendship with men of letters he showed a similar sted- fastness, and if the once cordial intimacy with Addison was inter- rupted, the fault did not rest with Swift. What close fellow- ship there was between them at one time his note-books show. Delany tells us he had heard Swift say "that often as they spent their evenings together, they neither of them ever wished. for a third person to support or enliven their conversation ;" and perhaps the most valuable praise Swift ever received was the dedi- cation by Addison of his Travels in Italy to "the most agreeable companion, the truest friend, and the greatest genius of his age." The friendship with Pope—in every respect a memorable friend- ship--is far more to Swift's credit than to the poet's. The contrast between the two men is striking. Pope lived for authorship, Swift cared chiefly to •sway men ; Pope's life was that of an invalid or recluse, Swift's, despite serious ailments, was, in his palmy clays, that of an energetic man of affairs, Pope was known and feared in Grub Street, and admired in the narrow world of letters, Swift, after fighting valiantly for Ireland in the famous matter of Wood's halfpence, was received in Dublin with something like royal honours. "Bells were rung, bonfires lighted, and a guard of honour escorted him to the deanery. Towns voted him their freedom, and received him like a prince." In two respects, however, there is a similarity between the cripple of Twickenham and the masterful Dean of St. Patrick's. Pope was, the greatest poetical satirist and Swift the greatest prose satirist of the age, and both Swift and Pope possessoil an unrivalled capacity for debasing their genius. Their imagination, instead of lifting them into a purer atmosphere, too often found its aliment in filth. Inthe correspondence of the two men, the Dean shows to in- finite advantage. He ranks, to our thinking, among the best letter-writers in the language, partly from his command of homely words, aud chiefly because, unlike Pope, he never makes an effort to write well. He understood Pope's weakness, re- minds bin, that, by his own confessibn, he had always schemes of epistolary fame, and observes that letters "cease to be letters, when they become a /ea d'esprit."

Mr. Stephen gives some notable illustrations of Swift's zeal in serving a, friend, but we.wish he could have spared a chapter for his friendships, p not only with statesmen like Bolingbroke and Oxford, but with Pope, Gay, and Arbuthnot, with Sheridan and Parnell. Perhaps, too much space is devoted, in this brief bio- graphy, to the part played by Swift as a politician ; and yet we scarcely like to hint at a fault in this direction, for nowhere have we met with an account of Swift's public career so concise and so comprehensive. That the little volume should be entirely satisfactory to the student of the period is impossible, for Mr. Stephen has been forced to write, as it were, in shorthand, but the general reader will gain all that he is likely to ask for from this admirably-written narrative.